Storms lend decent Mt. Hood snowpack gain

ELIOT and other glaciers on Mt. Hood’s north side are the natural water storage systems for the orchards and drinking water needs of the Hood River Valley, and recently got a measured reprieve after a bleak report in early February on the state of the snowpack. This image just south of Parkdale was taken March 9.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
ELIOT and other glaciers on Mt. Hood’s north side are the natural water storage systems for the orchards and drinking water needs of the Hood River Valley, and recently got a measured reprieve after a bleak report in early February on the state of the snowpack. This image just south of Parkdale was taken March 9.



A bout of storms last month dulled the threat of poor snowpack on Mount Hood.

Some unknowns remain, but the outlook has brightened for Hood River Valley agriculture since reports indicated in early February that Oregon’s mountains picked up meager snowpack, according to hydrologists.

Scott Oviatt, supervisory hydrologist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Portland, said the Hood, Sandy, and Lower Deschutes basins on March 7 showed a snow water equivalent at 80 percent of normal. He described it as an improvement in the Mount Hood region.

That’s a major step up from the first week of February, when the picture was bleak. On Feb. 1, those three basins had 60 percent of normal SWE, and on Feb. 8 the figure dropped to 47 percent.

“So, in short there has been a dramatic improvement to the available water for runoff in the snowpack,” Oviatt said.

He expects that if temperatures stay cool — and rain remains near average — then river streamflow volumes are forecast to be “very close to slightly above normal” for the Hood River region.

It’s unlikely 2018 will see the comparatively ample snow that came last year, which benefited from prolonged storms at the start of 2017. On March 7, 2017, the SWE levels for the Hood, Sandy, and Lower Deschutes basins was 131 percent of normal — about 50 percent higher than the same date this year.

The SWE term refers to the amount of water that’s stored in the snow, not its depth.

A SNOTEL monitoring map on the Natural Resources Conservation Service website shows the three Mount Hood basins were at 84 percent of median. That’s compared to the basin-wide data from 1981-2010.

The Upper Deschutes and Crooked basins were in poorer shape, with 58 percent of median.

Rain has been more generous. The Hood, Sandy and Lower Deschutes picked up 103 percent of usual precipitation March 13. The Willamette Basin got 91 percent of median.

The Hood River Valley has three major irrigation districts providing water for agriculture, as well as residential use. Mountain snowpack benefits districts via melted water runoff. According to the Farmers Irrigation District website, irrigation season may legally run from April 15 to Sept 30.

Weather will be mild in Hood River this week, according to forecasts. Reports call for partly cloudy skies and highs in the upper and mid-50s. Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort expects a few inches of snow Tuesday night as temperatures cool.



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